Friday, July 13, 2012

Anniversary of the Carabinieri

It was on this day in 1814 that His Majesty King Vittorio Emanuele I of Piedmont-Sardinia founded the elite Italian national police force; the Royal Carabinieri. Originally the Carabinieri were divided into divisions for each region of the country and in 1868 the Corazzieri mounted division was formed to act as a guard of honor for the King. What most people recognize immediately about the Carabinieri is their unique tricorn 'lucerna' hat, originally worn at all times but which is today reserved only for more formal occasions. The Carabinieri fought in the Italian Wars for Independence and during the unification of Italy were designated as the "First Force" of the Italian armed forces that were being established. They served with distinction in World War I, even in Africa and the Middle East and they served in World War II in combat, particularly in Yugoslavia where they engaged in numerous battles against the communist partisans of the brutal post-war dictator "Tito".

Before coming to power the Fascist Blackshirts often clashed with the Carabinieri but, of course, that changed when the Fascists became the legal government. However, their first duty was always to the King rather than to any temporary political official. It was the Carabinieri who arrested Mussolini when the King gave the order and the Carabinieri were among those who tried to defend Rome from the forces of Nazi Germany who occupied more than half of Italy. All members of the Carabinieri who were caught behind the lines were arrested by the Nazis since Hitler considered them 'too royalist' to be trusted and they were sent to concentration camps in Germany. After the war, when the monarchy was abolished there was a great break with historical tradition for the Carabinieri but they still serve and have seen action in international operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Now attached to the armed forces, they remain the national police force and the guardians of the President of the Italian Republic.

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